A Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) is one of the most commonly used types of POAs. The MPOA is sometimes called a healthcare proxy, an advanced directive, or a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions. With any of these names, an MPOA is a grant of authority from one person to another, allowing the designated person the authority to make medical decisions on the grantor's behalf when they cannot do so.
Why do I need an MPOA?
An MPOA is a vital document for everyone. Unfortunately, only about one-third of adults in the US have any advance directive or medical POA established. The MPOA does not take effect until necessary, meaning when you cannot make or communicate decisions about your medical treatment.
Suppose you are in a severe car accident, and you are unable to speak, possibly even unconscious. Another potential occurrence is that you slowly become ill, and even without a triggering event like an accident, you become unable to make appropriate decisions. The MPOA states who is going to determine your treatment, including significant issues, including:
- What treatment you will receive.
- What doctor or hospital will treat you.
- What pain medication you may receive.
- Whether you will receive extraordinary intervention, including ventilation, resuscitation, or tube feeding.
- Whether you will be an organ donor if you die.
In this scenario, the person to whom you have granted your power of attorney will need to make these decisions. It's not an easy task, and you should consider your prospective agent's ability to make decisions, stand up to potential pushback from others, and advocate for your best interests.
How much does it cost to have a Medical Power of Attorney?
In most states, you can obtain a free MPOA form online. Each state controls its requirements for completing and filing such forms. Most states try to keep the process simple and accessible, encouraging people to grant this essential authority. Some states require that these forms be witnessed by a Notary Public, often costing around $10. However, almost every state allows the notary requirement to be satisfied by having two adult witnesses.
On the other hand, if you decide to draft an MPOA with the help of a lawyer, you will likely pay for several hours of their time, which could cost quite a bit, depending on that attorney’s billable rate. However, this isn’t generally needed. For almost everyone, the designation of a POA will cost very little or even nothing.
Some states, including California, charge a small fee for registering the POA grant. However, this step isn’t generally regarded as necessary. The essential requirement is to complete a form and follow the witnessing requirements in your state. You can typically find the forms and the requirements online or by asking at your hospital. In fact, many hospitals ask patients to complete advance directives, including selecting a healthcare proxy, before having some procedures.
How much detail should I include in my MPOA?
As mentioned, some states require the submission of an advance directive, which describes your preferences about some potential decisions, including end-of-life care. The American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Law and Aging prefers a more straightforward approach that grants the durable power of attorney but does not include detailed instructions. The reason for the ABA’s position on this issue is that their research indicates that these detailed instructions are not usually helpful when they are eventually consulted. The ABA stresses instead the importance of choosing a reliable agent.
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